The Robots Are Coming: AI Through the County Lens at #MACoCon

At the MACo Summer Conference, attendees got expert guidance on the future of rapidly developing technologies, best practices to define and validate government IT strategies, and tips for mitigating risk without inhibiting innovation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to transform the world and how we live, work, and communicate.

For county governments, AI can mean streamlined processes, enhanced service delivery, improved public safety and security, fraud detection and prevention, data analytics, and regulatory compliance. Perhaps most importantly, this rapidly evolving technology can revolutionize resident engagement and input.

However, implementing and regulating AI comes with challenges, including concerns about privacy, security, oversight, equity, accessibility, bias, etc. So, as local governments explore AI’s transformative power, many questions remain.

Senator Katie Fry Hester led the conversation and moderated an informative Q&A at the “The Robots Are Coming: AI Through the County Lens” Tech Expo Deep Dive session at the MACo Summer Conference. The Tech Expo is a one-day event featuring technology leaders, tech-focused educational sessions for local government officials, and partnership-building opportunities.

As the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Biotechnology, Senator Hester is a leader in the General Assembly’s efforts to ensure the responsible development and deployment of AI – and to promote greater security, safety, and trust in the rapidly developing technology.

Panel speakers included:

  • Rob O’Connor, CIO, Maryland Comptroller
  • Dave Mahoney, Director, Security Privacy and Risk Consulting, RSM
  • Ben Yelin, Program Director, Public Policy & External Affairs, UMD Center for Health and Homeland Security

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Dave Mahoney started the session by explaining how AI rapidly transforms how we live, work, and interact. Mahoney detailed how significant research and funding have led to massive growth and opportunities with AI. Mahoney also shared best practices for managing AI risks, solving AI challenges, maximizing current AI investments, and unlocking new AI potential.

Robert O’Connor discussed the impact and opportunities for both state and local government, security and data privacy concerns, and best practices for local governments to consider before implementing AI applications. O’Connor also explained why AI is a game-changer for helping the Office of the Maryland Comptroller identify fraudulent tax returns, help constituents, and streamline processes.

Ben Yelin discussed the problem of discriminatory biases in data and explained why AI requires a massive culture change for emergency management/reassessment of emergency preparedness and response. Yelin also stressed the importance of ensuring all counties (big/small/urban/rural/suburban, etc.) have access to this technology. He also highlighted federal efforts to regulate AI and provided examples of proposed regulations in other states.

Senator Katie Fry Hester detailed previous AI bills considered by the General Assembly. Senator Hester also discussed opportunities and challenges for AI applications across several policy sectors, including health, education, environment/climate, public safety, employment, and housing. Senator Hester closed the session by discussing several areas the General Assembly must consider with AI, including taking an inventory of existing AI applications across the state, government procurement, innovation, efficiency, and transparency.

The session was on August 16 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

More about MACo’s Summer Conference: